Image courtesy of www.impawards.com
Kate Beckinsale .Amy Fox
Luke Wilson .David Fox
Frank Whaley .Mason
Ethan Embry ..Mechanic
Scott G. Anderson ..Killer
Luke Wilson has found a niche as the lesser-known member of the Will Ferrell/Ben Stiller helmed “Frat Pack” over the last several years. Sticking to supporting roles in larger productions and lead roles in smaller ones for the most part, Wilson has carved out a unique career path as compared to his better-known brother Owen. Receiving rave reviews and talk of an Oscar nomination for his role in The Family Stone just a short time ago, as well as crafting memorable scenes in cameo appearances in several others, he seems to be taking a much different path to leading man status than most comedians would in a similar situation. Juxtaposed against the success of Owen, Luke Wilson’s career seems to pale in comparison on certain levels. With an offbeat delivery and relaxed style, Wilson doesn’t translate as quickly to many roles as the manic energy of his brother does. It’s about what he doesn’t do, as opposed to what he does, that has made Luke Wilson’s comedic style a tougher sell at the box office. It has more nuance and subtlety, making the laugh less readily apparent in a field where obvious chuckles rule the day. His career has been spent honing small comedic roles, sharing the spotlight with Ferrell and Vince Vaughn in Old School while making smaller roles into comedic gold in a host of other films.
So it’s hard to fathom why he’s starring in a horror film. Wilson stars as David Fox in Vacancy, a horror thriller marking the North American debut of Nimrod Antal, as a man trying to survive through a homemade slasher film with his soon to be ex-wife Amy (Kate Beckinsale). When their car has troubles, and they’re stuck in a small town in the middle of nowhere, the discovery of some snuff films taking place in the same hotel room they’re staying at startles them. When men in masks come after them, ready to kill live on videotape, it’s up to the duo to try and survive the night while fending off their attackers.
For Wilson it’s a departure from the sort of roles that have earned him a cult following. He made it to Hollywood fame and fortune on the modest success of films like Idiocracy and Bottle Rocket, appearing in smaller roles in bigger budgeted films, so it’s interesting to see him in a film designed to earn a top spot in its opening weekend. David is the typical hero of the genre, the usual sort of innocent trying to survive from evil men trying to end his life, but he’s a bit smarter for the most part than the average horror movie protagonist. He figures out things from watching some of the snuff films that alert them to their scenario and uses it in their attempt to escape. It’s a case of the hero being smart as opposed to doing the usual sort of horror movie hero stupidity that leads to piles of dead teenagers, usually. While Kate Beckinsale has a throwaway role, mainly just looking scared for the most part, the script is really well written once the thrills begin.
But that’s also a huge problem, as the film doesn’t develop any of its characters enough early on to make the eventual chase more meaningful. It’s easy to like David and Amy because they’re relatively good performances, at least in the genre, from the actors. This isn’t Academy Award level acting from anyone in the cast, but it’s better than the average. The script doesn’t develop the characters or give us a reason to understand their backgrounds before everything happens, but certain things are alluded to throughout the film that developed more could’ve made the film much more gripping than it already is. In any sort of top notch horror film, developing a terrific bad guy or giving us well-developed protagonists makes the film more involving. Giving us something to believe in about the Fox family or developing the low grade filmmaker Mason (Frank Whaley) beyond the superficial nature of what is presented would make the film’s gripping nature much stronger.
Part of the reason, it seems, is the film’s rather short running time. Clocking in less than 90 minutes of running time, Vacancy is a short thrill ride that starts early and never lets go of the thrill. While it is hampered by an ending that is super happy, almost abruptly kicking in once it feels like non one is going to survive the night, Vacancy represents at least a start by Luke Wilson at garnering a larger audience overall. It might not be the best movie to try and win the masses away from lesser talented comedians, but it represents a start.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):